By freedivinguae

12 Tips for Preventing Underwater Camera Housing Leaks

There is a saying that there are two types of underwater photographer, those who have had a camera housing flood already and those who haven’t had a camera housing flood….yet. Camera floods do happen but there is always a reason for it and usually it comes down to a lack of proper preparation. Packing your camera should not be a case of simply putting it in the housing and closing it shut. Proper camera packing takes time and patience but when you return from your dives with great images and your camera in tact it will all be worth it!

Here are our top tips for making sure that your camera stays safe (and dry) during your dives:

  1. Invest in the best possible housing for your camera. Buy the specific housing for your camera make and model. “One size fits all” housings may be cheaper but they can cost you more in the long-run if they leak because they don’t fit correctly.
  1. Choose where you pack your camera carefully. Avoid dusty or sandy areas and position yourself away from any fans, wind or drafts. Make sure that you have adequate lighting – a bright desk lamp is perfect.
  1. Have everything you need close to hand before you start. If you have to stop half way through to grab something, your open housing may attract dust or fibre while you are gone. Essential tools include; an o-ring remover, tissue, silicone grease and a micro-fibre or lint free cloth.
  1. Wash your hands before you start and if you have long hair, tie it back out of the way. It’s true that a single human hair trapped in your housing CAN cause a leak!
  1. Start by opening your housing and removing the o-ring with an o-ring remover or other blunt tool – a credit card works well. Never use a knife, scissors or sharp object as this may damage the o-ring.
  1. Put the o-ring to one side on a clean, shiny surface, or if you’re working on a wooden bench place it on a plastic bag. Clean the “seat”, this is the ledge where the o-ring sits and it is often forgotten. Wipe around the seat and then follow up by running your finger tip around it to feel for any remaining gritty particles. Angle the housing under the light to check for any hairs or strands of fibre and remove them.
  1. Hold a tissue between your fingers and run the o-ring through it to remove any old grease, sand or grit particles or other foreign matter. Next slide the o-ring through your pinched thumb and forefinger and feel for smoothness – if you feel anything gritty repeat the cleaning process. Make a final check under the light for any fibres before applying a small amount of silicone grease and smoothing it all around the o-ring.
  1. Carefully replace the o-ring and once again angle the housing, with the o-ring in place, under the light to check for any foreign matter. Once you’re content that the housing is clean, place the camera in.
  1. In some housings there’s a space below where the camera sits and the base of the housing which is an ideal spot to place either a sachet of silica gel or a very carefully folded tissue. Silica gel will absorb any moisture, not just from leaks, but also from condensation due to temperature changes. If you decide to use tissue or a gel sachet in the housing be sure it doesn’t interfere with button functions, the seal of the housing or fit of the camera in the housing. In the event of a small leak the tissue will also absorb moisture and hopefully buy you enough time to get out of the water.
  1. Make a final check and close the housing. When you do this, make sure that any lanyards or strings which attach the diffuser are well out of the way.
  1. Bubble check! Hold your packed camera underwater – a wash tank is ideal for this – and check for any bubbles which indicate a problem with the seal of the housing. It’s better to discover a problem now than when you are at 20 meters underwater!
  1. Remember that after diving care is just as important as pre-dive packing. I can’t stress this enough. Rinse your housing thoroughly and if possible, air dry it. While rinsing the housing, depress and release each of the buttons several times to push out any salt water trapped beneath them. Gently lubricate the o-ring before carefully folding it in to a figure of 8 shape and storing in the housing.

When preparing to make a dive with your camera make sure you plan ahead so you have enough time to go through these steps slowly and carefully. Rushing to pack your camera makes you likely to miss a step or miss a hair or sand particle which could spell the end of your camera.

Take care of your camera housing by cleaning it and packing it carefully and it will take care of your camera!

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By freedivinguae

Shark Diaries: Freediving With Greatness

The Islands in the Stream have an eclectic history from the Rat Pack to rum running, but recent notoriety has been all about the great hammerhead shark. Divers from across the globe trek to Bimini’s crystal clear waters to swim with these magnificent creatures. Social media timelines, magazine covers and episodes on Shark Week all feature this IUCN Red List ‘endangered species.’ I am very lucky because this shark diving hot spot happens to be in my backyard.

Jillian freediving and photographing sharks Image: Duncan Brake
Jillian freediving and photographing sharks Image: Duncan Brake

Bimini is a very sharky place, but as the winter months bring cooler water, the hammerheads move onto the shallow sand banks of the west side of South Bimini. The pristine waters and shallow depth create aquarium-like conditions, ideal for diving or freediving. I have dived with sharks all over the world, but nothing compares to slipping beneath the surface with these sharks.

Fear and fascination alike, attract us to sharks – their power and grace intrigue us, as they move in and out of the depths. For many, the great hammerhead elicits fear because of its size and the odd shaped head (cephalofoil) for which it is named.  The shape and size of the head provide an evolutionary advantage, creating more surface area for electroreceptors called the Ampullae of Lorenzini and positioning the eyes for maximum field of view. The overlap from what the sharks can see from their left and right eyes is three times higher than sharks with the traditional pointed snout (i.e lemon and blacktips).

Jillian photographing a great hammerhead Image: Duncan Brake
Jillian photographing a great hammerhead Image: Duncan Brake

The mouth, most often displayed agape, is open to allow water to move in and over the gills, which is the method of breathing, called ram ventilation, great hammerheads uses. Other sharks, like nurse sharks, can buccal pump, using their mouth muscles to draw the water in, while tiger sharks can switch between the two methods.

While I love scuba diving with these sharks, I also enjoy a quiet moment on the sand bottom on a single breath of air. The sharks circle around and come extremely close. They are bold, but not aggressive. It’s a moment to dance as we move up and down the water column, surfacing only long enough to collect another breath for another escape into their salty world.

Diving down and swimming next to an animal 6-7 feet longer than I am, is truly remarkable and there really is nothing like it.  I especially love looking into their eyes; not an empty black space people describe, but a curious and intelligent soul. A moment in the water can truly change the way people feel about them. Fear and nervousness are replaced by awe. It also catalyzes a better understanding and a level of respect, something these animals deserve.

Great hammerhead shark Image: Jillian Morris
Great hammerhead shark Image: Jillian Morris

There is no place else in the world like Bimini for encounters with great hammerheads and if swimming with them is on your Bucket List, this is the place!

Time to grab my mask and fins (and very warm wetsuit) and head out for the next shark adventure!

By freedivinguae

Free diver Kimi Werner on finding peace underwater

If you’re a trained free diver like Kimi Werner your average hold could be around two minutes, or when pushed to extremes over four.

Hawaiian-born Werner is the former US spear fishing champion, a trained chef, and her clean-living lifestyle is followed by more than 120,000 on Instagram.

In 2013 a video showing her hitching a ride on the dorsal fin of a great white shark went viral.

Werner is a poster-girl for the free diving movement, the practice of holding your breath and diving as deep as you can underwater.

It’s a risky pursuit — one in 500 free divers die according to the book The Deep. In 2015 world champion free diver Natalia Molchanova never resurfaced from a dive of 35 metres near Ibiza.

Kimi Werner underwater

Those who practice freediving liken it to yoga and say there is no greater feeling of tranquillity.

“The most attractive part of freediving for me is taking that drop,” Werner said.

“The state of mind that I have to enter in order to be completely relaxed and make the most of that breath of air there’s something that’s so peaceful about it.”

Werner, aka @kimiswimmy, says idyllic images on social media have helped push the sport into the mainstream.

“I think the reason why there’s been such increase in popularity is because of social media,” she said.

“Before it was kind of this secret world that free divers had and you might have heard about free diving from a friend.

“But today there are so many images that give people a taste of what that world feels and looks like.”

Kimi Werner spear fishing

Werner started diving and fishing as a child with her father on Maui.

“What attracted me to free diving was that I felt like I could fly, I could go down and visit the fish but the minute I wanted to return to the surface I could take off and I loved that feeling,” she said.

The movement is growing in Australia and a number of free diving schools have been set up.

For Melbourne-based Marlon Quinn, the feeling of serenity under the water propelled him to turn away from a corporate IT career and start a free diving business.

“Life’s fast these days and getting that little bit of time out where time stops is what people are really drawn back to and magnetised by,” he said.

“I think people are just connecting with the fact that you can let go and discover the environment in your own way.”


Kimi Werner trains underwater

He says there are some basic rules to help free divers minimise risks.

“It’s definitely a risky sport and that’s where doing some training, working with a buddy, always diving with someone [is important],” he said.

For Werner, the 2013 shark dive still sends her heart racing.

“It was the biggest great white shark I had ever seen. About 17 feet and coming straight at me,” she said.

“I reacted before my mind could do anything about it and I swam towards her.

“When I did she veered off and the way that she swam away helped me realise she was not acting aggressive, or maybe me swimming towards her made her mellow out.”